The #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab in Warsaw: European policies from a Central and Eastern European countries’ perspective
On 4 March 2019, WiseEuropa hosted the #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab within the framework of the project #EngagEU co-funded by the “Europe for Citizens” program of the European Commission. Together with five experts in the field of European affairs, the participants discussed the challenges that the European Union and young European citizens are expected to face after the European Parliamentary elections in May 2019. During the #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab, more than 130 citizens participated in different workshops as well as in a public debate organized by WiseEuropa in cooperation with the Centre of East European Studies. The workshops focused on the political situation in Poland and Ukraine, but also dealt with reflections about European integration in general. Furthermore, the participants concentrated on issues of European identity as well as on integration in times of global migration. The following public debate dealt with the tensions in Eastern Europe caused by the two major sources of influence, Russia and the European integration.
During the consultations in different workshops, participants identified several challenges the European Union is facing as well as ideas how to tackle these challenges. They asked for:
- supporting the European Single Market with a view to strengthen and further develop the European Union in general and to increase the EU’s competitiveness;
- to encourage moderate political parties’ to develop political ideas that respond to demands and anxieties of the European citizens – the main aim is to unite people, not to divide them;
- reforming EU institutions in order to increase their efficiency
- improving the integration of migrants, e.g. by changing the educational systems in EU member states;
- the EU to act as guardian of European values such as diversity, equality, human rights and/or access to free education for men and women;
Following the consultations throughout the workshops, a public debate on “The European Parliamentary elections and Russia’s and Ukraine’s power play in the Central and Eastern Europe” took place. At this occasion, two rapporteurs summarized the results of the precedent event #3rdYoungCitizens’FutureLab that was held a few weeks earlier in Nice. Agnieszka Lichnerowicz, journalist at the TOM FM radio station, moderated the discussion that at the beginning centered on the power of Russia and its potential impact on the upcoming European elections. Another point of discussion was to what extent the right-wing and Eurosceptic movements in Europe influence young citizens in the EU and how Eurosceptics can increase the feeling of insecurity among the citizens. The debate was divided into two parts: A panel discussion and a Q&A session. The experts Adam Balcer (WiseEuropa), Paweł Kowal (political scientist and commentator, expert at Eastern Europe), Marcin Kędzierski (Research director at “Jagiellonian Club”), Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz (former Ambassador of Poland to Russia) and Ludwika Włodek (lecturer at the Centre of East European Studies) started by discussing the relations between Russia and Ukraine, Russia and Europe and how the power play among these actors influences the European elections. Then, the audience was invited to raise questions.
The questions were mainly related to information transmission in Russia about the political situation in Europe. Another question was if Russia was likely to take measures against countries such as Belarus, Ukraine or in the Western Balkan in the months ahead and if those possible actions might influence the elections in Europe and Ukraine. According to the panelists, any military action from Russia was unlikely because there were more effective methods to interfere (e.g. cyberterrorism).
The public was also concerned about the future of the Eastern Partnership and its decreasing importance. The general assessment was that no EU member states was willing to advance this project and that the upcoming conference on Eastern Partnership event seemed to be just another event without any international prestige. It was however stated that the Partnership, once relaunched, might play an important role in keeping ties between the EU and its Eastern neighbors.
The debate proved how challenging it is to understand and to assess Russia’s impact on the EU. However, potential Russian influence on the European elections cannot serve as an excuse to withdraw attention of European stakeholders from difficult challenges such as migration, cyberterrorism, discrimination and populism that the EU needs to face. Therefore, it is even more important that the ideas for the future of Europe developed by young citizens at the #4thYoungCitizens’FutureLab receive attention. These ideas that have been published in the multilingual manifesto “Young Ideas for the Future of Europe” [LINK] have been discussed with the public as well as decision-makers at several occasions.
Authors: Johannes Hofmann/Jana Schubert